On October 21, 2020, Ralph Chami presented a 1-hour presentation called “The Value of Nature to Our Economic Well-Being” followed by Q&A.
For the longest time, humans have assumed that they are separate from the natural world and that nature provides infinite commodities. These two assumptions helped fuel the industrial revolution, but at the same time, resulted in the abuse of nature and in the climate crisis. We need a new paradigm, a new way of thinking which recognizes that humans are part of the natural world and that nature is a finite input into our lives and livelihood. This realization—of the value of nature—allows us to develop a framework for natural resource valuation that also directly addresses the fundamental collective action problem in environmental protection.
Ralph highlights how their valuation framework uses the lessons of behavioral economics to create values that individual decision makers find credible and relatable, in addition to stimulating excitement or concern that is essential to prompting action around environmental issues. He then discusses how to apply this framework to value forest elephants in Africa and great whales that are found off the coasts of Brazil and Chile. The values they estimate for individual members of these species are significant: $1.75 million per forest elephant and an average of $2 million per whale.
He then discusses how their valuations lead to new designs for environmental preservation and restoration policies. Finally, he sketches how we can build a new economy that partners with the natural world to ensure a sustainable, inclusive and nature-friendly economic growth.
Ralph Chami is currently Assistant Director in the Institute for Capacity Development (ICD), International Monetary Fund, where he oversaw the development and implementation of the internal economics training program for all IMF economists as well as the revamping of the Institute’s external training program for officials from member countries. Most recently, he was Assistant Director and Division Chief in the Middle East and Central Asia Department where he oversaw surveillance and program work on fragile states: Egypt, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Yemen, and was Mission Chief for Libya and Somalia.
He is the recipient of the 2014 IMF Operational Excellence Award for his work on Libya. Previously, he was the Chief of the Regional Studies Division, where he oversaw regional surveillance of 32 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia regions, and the production of the Regional Economic Outlook. Prior to that, he was the Chief of the Middle Eastern Division of the IMF Institute where he oversaw capacity development in that region. He joined the IMF in 1999. From 1991 till 1999, he was on the faculty of Finance in the Department of Finance, University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He also served as a consultant to the World Bank, and to the private sector in the US.
Ralph Chami has a BS from the American University of Beirut, an MBA in Finance and Statistics from the University of Kansas, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the Johns Hopkins University. His areas of specialization are: banking regulation and supervision, financial markets, remittances, and climate. His hobbies include music and yoga. Ralph is a semi-professional guitarist for over 40 years